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Nov 9

19 Nuggets of Wisdom Cached Over 11 Winters as Parents

by Meghan Fitzgerald

We’ve learned a lot in 11 winters as parents and co-founders at Tinkergarten. Though we learn all year long, somehow parenting in the winter—a season unlike any other—has given us some of the best lessons. 

We’re always learning from this incredible community, and we’re thrilled to share 19 of the treasured nuggets of wisdom we’ve gathered and stored up along the way—each of which we’re so grateful to have learned alongside this incredible community. We hope they resonate with you, and we’d love to hear from you about what other winter wisdom you’ve got!  

Winter Your Way

Find your winter mindset, then lean in

There’s no season quite like winter, and there’s no one right way to do it. To love winter, you’ve got to find the winter mindset that works for you, then lean in. Love every frosty moment outside, then gear up and get out there! See winter as your chance to hibernate, get your hygge on! Want help finding your winter mindset, start here! Then, enjoy this winter your way!

It’s all in the approach

Playing outside in winter is 49% gear and 151% attitude. Kids take their cues about how to feel about a situation from us—and we experience suffering even more when we focus on the negative. So, as much as you can, find the positive, or put a positive spin on the cold. You’ll make the moment better (maybe even joyful), and you’ll sneak in a “you got this!” lesson—the kind of lesson kids can apply to any challenging situation, not just a frosty morning!

Set a goal & find teammates

Sometimes it helps to set a goal—Maybe you want to push yourself to do even more outdoor adventures this winter. Or, you just want to aim to get outside, even for a little bit, each day. Maybe you just try to go on one wintry outdoor adventure per week. However you do it, friends help! Find another family to join in, see if you have a local Tinkergarten group, share your adventures in the Outdoors All 4 community, or take on an ambitious goal like 1,000 Hours Outside next year. 

Gearing Up

You are not alone if…

  • You get totally caught off guard that it suddenly got cold...and you feel like you have none of the gear you need for kids (or you!).
  • You’re not sure what gear you actually need to keep kids warm out there.
  • You nailed how to keep your kiddo cozy last year, but this year, all bets are off...they won’t have any part of mittens!

Let them learn (a little)

Sometimes the best way to learn that you need to wear your mittens is to suffer without mittens for just long enough...

Just like the oxygen mask

Remember to dress yourself for winter first...you’ll have a hard time enjoying outside time if you are too cold!

Shed your outer layers when in transit

Try not to wear your outer layer (e.g. coat, hats, mittens) in the car or on the bus/train. You’ll end up feeling so much colder when you head outside.

Keep the trunk warm, and the leaves stay warm, too. 

Translation: The right base layers keep kids (and us) warm enough that our body doesn’t have to work as hard to keep our limbs, hands or feet warm. Remember those base layers!

How much warmth leaves your head?

Hats still matter, even if not quite as much as “they” may have said. Many of us heard something like, “75% of your body heat leaves your head.” Though largely debunked and demoted to a range of 7-10%, there’s no doubt that every percent matters, and you just feel warmer with a warm hat on. 

Choice makes the heart grow fonder...even of mittens

Giving kids the chance to pick the color, pattern or even fit of their winter gear can make them even more excited to actually wear it. This is especially true the older your explorers get! 

Ask other grown ups about what gear their kids (or they!) are wearing. 

We have learned the best tips from other parents and caregivers. Plus, it always feels good to be asked about a choice you’ve made for your kids—so ask away! And, please keep sharing when you love something or find something that really works!

Just a small bit of jamming helps the winter gear get on...

Getting busy kiddos into all that winter gear can range from daunting to full on meltdown city. Play or sing a song when you’re getting dressed. A few favorites: 

  • Hat, Mittens, Socks and Shoes by The Big Littles
  • These Boots Were Made for Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra
  • Ice, Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice

Keeping Warm

When in chill, move!

As soon as you sense that you or your explorer are getting cold, start to move. Movement generates warmth, increases circulation and takes our minds off of the chill. Want a few movement activities, try Going on a Bear Hike, pretending to do some Creature Play, or playing the Bell Game

Hot socks rock

Put socks or even a blanket near the radiator or heater before you head out (making sure to avoid fire hazards!). Warm cloth feels sooo good on hands, toes, even noses, when you come back inside!

Warm up a forest baby

Turn an old sock and some rice into your very own forest baby (here’s how!). Put the forest baby into the microwave for ~1.5 minutes before you head out, then keep them with you when you head out to play. Hug or hold them as needed!

Warm kids from the inside

For years, we’ve loved having winter tea time at Tinkergarten. To keep everyone safe, we won’t enjoy tea time together during winter classes, but we encourage every family to fill up a thermos with warm, herbal tea or hot chocolate and bring a few small mugs to enjoy tea time right after class—or enjoy it as a sweet part of any outdoor adventure this winter!

Knowing When to Call It

There are days that are just too cold.

Though we love the Scandinavian saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” there are days that are too cold, wet and/or windy for safe play. But, where the lines are is not always clear. To help take the guesswork, use a chart like this to decide.

When you can’t get out, bring the outside In!

You can still get the benefit of being outside, even on those days when you just can’t get out. Even holding natural materials, listening to nature sounds or looking at nature images can give kids (and us) some of the benefits of being outdoors—amazing. Visit our blog for more ways to bring the outside in this winter. 

Winter is magical.

Even though it can be formidable, winter truly is a magical time of year. Whether your area is covered with ice or fluttering with migratory birds who fled that northern frost, or anywhere in between, winter is like no other season—and full of lessons and joys to experience! Just do it your way!

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Meghan Fitzgerald

Founder

After 20+ years as an educator, curriculum developer and school leader, Meghan has her dream gig—an entrepreneur/educator/mom who helps families everywhere, including hers, learn outside. Prior to Tinkergarten®, Meghan worked as an Elementary School Principal, a Math/Science Specialist & and a teacher in public and private schools in NY, MA and CA. She earned a BA with majors in English and Psychology at Amherst College, an MS in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College, and was trained to become a Forest School leader at Bridgwater College, UK. When she is with her kids, Meghan is that unapologetic mom who plays along with them in mud, dances in the pouring rain, and builds a darn good snow igloo with her bare hands.
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